Euro 2022: England success bringing more fans to games

This year’s Euros feels like a big deal. Record-breaking numbers of fans at games. Millions tuning in to watch. BBC News delayed as the Lionesses roared to a late quarter final win over Spain. But that hasn’t always been the case for women’s football.

Chloe Payne remembers the 2018 Euros, and how tickets were “easy to get”.

But in 2022 getting into the games has proved a little trickier.

“I tried to get tickets for the semi and final but they were sold out,” the 24-year-old singer tells BBC Newsbeat.

“I’ve played and watched football since I was about 10 and the game has just grown from strength to strength”, she says.

“Stadiums for women’s football never used to be full.

“When I went to watch the Northern Ireland versus England game there were over 30,000 fans, they had live music and stands set up.

“Southampton were giving out flags and doing free face paint, all to get more women involved in football.

“It was a really great day – even better that the Lionesses won 5-0!”

Up to 7.6 million people watched England’s 2-1 win against Spain on Wednesday night – but this isn’t the only reason for fans to celebrate.

Women’s football has seen a surge of interest, with a record-breaking 68,871 supporters flocking to the Euro 2022 opening game at Old Trafford.

Alice Barber has always been a football fan thanks to her dad, but became an avid follower of the women’s game in 2019.

The 27-year-old is going to the final and says she’s glad the sport is “finally getting the recognition it deserves”.

“The minute we found out the women’s Euros was in Britain, we knew that we were going to get tickets,” she says.

“I am going to the finals with my three sisters, mum and even my young cousin who is now a huge football fan as well.

“The atmosphere will always be incredible.

“And what’s really nice is to see lots of young girls who are there and really feeling support for the woman’s team.

“It’s important for them to know if you are a girl and you’re into your football, it’s doesn’t necessarily have to follow the men’s football team – lots of families will be there showing their support and waving their flags.”

Someone who knows all about the next generation is Laura Donnelly, who went to watch England’s nail-biting quarter final with adult and child players members of her local ladies’ team.

The 35-year-old said the “overwhelming and emotional” experience was a great way for younger members of the squad to “enjoy the game and have something and someone to aspire to be when they’re older”.

“It’s amazing to see how far they have come. At the game it wasn’t just young children there and females, there were men of all ages as well,” she says.

“I think it’s just a testament to all the work that’s gone into growing the sport. Hopefully, if England can go on to win the Euros it will really set women’s football alight in this country.”

England have had a strong run in this year’s tournament, racking up impressive 8-0 and 5-0 wins in the group stages.

They faced a tougher game against Spain but pulled ahead in extra time when Georgia Stanway planted a screamer in the back of the net from outside the box.

But before they take to the pitch all eyes will be on Belgium v Sweden on Friday, with the winner going on to face England in the semis.

Original article published 14.07.2022 on BBC Newsbeat.

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